Blogz In The Hood

Cast your minds back to 1984 (the year, not the novel by George Orwell).

Indira Ghandi – who remains the only female Prime Minister of India (to date) – was assassinated, the Grand Hotel in Brighton was bombed, and George Michael released ‘Careless Whisper’.

But it wasn’t all tragic news. In the same year, the Macintosh computer was released, the first solo transatlantic flight took place, and some of the biggest artists in the World gathered together to record ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, raising £8m to help relieve famine in Ethiopia.

1661befcd2725c269d989a3e8f941b04

Oh, and a pale, skinny, dark-haired little boy from Cheshire started primary school.

Of course, I’m assuming most of you reading this will recall 1984 (the year, not the novel by George Orwell), because, even though many of my followers were not yet sperm floating around inside their father’s man-plums at the time, it tends to be the more ‘mature’ among you who go to the trouble of reading this weekly blog.

I suspect this is because those of us with a few years under our belts have nothing better to do of a Friday, while the younger generation seem more than content with the shorter quips I post on my Facebook page (particularly those with pictures), and prefer to spend their spare time hanging around in car parks wearing hoodies, sexting each other, or playing ‘Candy Crush’ on their phones.

limit-phone-use-for-teens.jpg

Ok, perhaps that’s a sweeping generalisation (it definitely is, I haven’t the first clue what the ‘yoof’ get up to these days), and I am happy to be proven wrong, but I still fear that my early mention of 1984 (the year, not the novel by George Orwell) will have immediately lost some of my younger fans, so let’s fast-forward to something a little more recent, shall we?

1989 (the year, not the album by Taylor Swift).

By 1989, that pale, skinny, dark-haired lad was also bespectacled (as if he didn’t have enough on his nerdy little plate), and in September started his penultimate year at that same Primary School, before heading into the much wider world of secondary education in 1991. Little did the world know at the time, but that young man would one day become the sixth most popular blogger in the whole of Sandbach.

Image result for sarcastic thumbs up gif

(NB: for anyone who hasn’t realised it yet, that young boy was me – although, if that did come as a surprise, perhaps you might prefer something a little less challenging than reading this week’s blog, as there are some big words coming up, and I fear you may struggle).

Anyway, due to the diminutive (see?) size of my primary school, the years were merged into joint classes, so the ‘Year 4/5’ room actually contained around a dozen children who were one academic year younger than the rest of us (but who were judged to be bright enough to keep up), along with another lad who joined the school having moved into the area from down south. And that lad, together with one of the younger pupils, became two of my very best – and now oldest – friends.

Indeed, it was only a month or so ago that we realised September 2019 marked three decades of us being mates, so we decided to honour the occasion by meeting up in the village where we went to school (and, rather conveniently for me, where I now commute to work), so we could reminisce and – more importantly – get pissed.

Obviously it would have been preferable to have met up on the exact anniversary of our friendship, but aside from the fact none of us could work out precisely when that was, and it made more sense to go drinking on a Friday anyway, the main hurdle was that one of our trio (known as ‘Golden Boy’, ever since I labelled him with that nickname back in the ’90s), is harder to organise than Brexit.

Image result for boris johnson gif

Anyway, after weeks of diary checking on his part, ‘Golden Boy’ finally confirmed that he was also available to meet up last Friday, and the date was set. Our other friend, who we shall simply refer to as ‘Tim’ (for that’s his name) was already on annual leave that day, so I booked the afternoon off in order that we could start drinking earlier.

And, because at least two of us were now available to meet mid-afternoon, I decided to contact our old school, on the off chance they may allow us in for a little nosy around after all this time. Sure enough, I got an e-mail back the same day from someone in the office called Sarah, who confirmed that a tour would be possible, so long as we arrived by no later than 4.30pm (because all primary school staff are ruined by that time on a Friday, and desperately need to return home, to get drunk and cry themselves to sleep in a darkened room*).

SAD_adult

*I imagine.

I therefore arranged to meet Tim outside our old gates at 4pm, and shortly beforehand set off to re-trace my childhood walk to school, which I had done most days through the mid-to-late 1980’s.

On my way there, I decided it would be courteous to phone the school to remind them that we would be dropping by, and when a female voice answered I assumed it was the Sarah I had swapped e-mails with the week before. Only, it turned out to be someone else, so I began explaining why I was calling:

‘Ah, ok, sorry. Basically, my friend and I are meeting up this afternoon, as we’ve realised it’s thirty years since we first became friends, and we were hoping to have a look around our old primary school to see how much it has changed.’

‘Oh, yes, Sarah did mention it. That’s no problem, just come to reception when you arrive. Sarah is still here, but she’s had to go to the main gate as we’ve had… erm…. a bit of an incident.’

It was at this point, as my thoughts clicked into place, I had a sneaking suspicion I knew what that incident might be, as I had arranged to meet my now forty-year-old mate outside the gates to a primary school, and I suddenly realised that this could look potentially, well, dodgy as fuck.

Image result for realisation gif

I restrained myself from asking ‘would the incident happen to be about 5’5” tall, with dark hair and stubble?’ and merely confirmed that I would be arriving in around five minutes. Sure enough, when I got to the gate, there was my friend Tim, who nervously grinned and said ‘You’ll never guess what’s just happened to me!’

‘Oh, I think I can guess. Have you just been accused of hanging around outside a primary school, by any chance?!’

‘How did you know?!’

‘Because you’re hanging around outside a fucking primary school, mate.’

I went on to tell him about my conversation with the office, and Tim explained that he had indeed been challenged by a few members of staff, including Sarah, who were understandably concerned about reports – one of which from a young girl – about a strange man hanging around outside the gates.

Thankfully, Tim had quickly told them why he was there, Sarah had remembered our earlier e-mail exchange, and had cancelled the local police from arriving to escort Tim to a cell for the night (joke, I don’t think the police had actually been called by that point).

20191014_140141

We then went to reception, where it would be fair to say Sarah wasn’t seeing the funny side of the altercation, and it was left to her colleague to show us around instead.

Despite the intervening three decades, the school looked remarkably similar, if a little smaller than we had remembered, but that’s perhaps because at least one of us has grown a lot taller since then (NB: it’s not Tim), and I was especially pleased to note that our old brown and gold uniform had finally been replaced by a much more appealing burgundy instead, so at least future generations no longer have to suffer the wardrobe embarrassment myself and my peers went through all those years ago.

In fact, my mum had managed to find some of my old school photos, so I showed these to the lady from the office, although she was understandably apathetic (I’m not sure why I expected her to be impressed, to be honest), and she merely smiled politely.

20191011_140447

Note: If you can spot me, that’s a shadow behind my head, not a mullet.

She did, however, explain that one of the dinner ladies still worked at the school three decades on, and actually remembered us (which should have been heart-warming to hear, but only made me realise that the office had clearly asked around to verify Tim and I were genuine, and not a pair of deviant sexual predators, before agreeing to our visit).

Anyway, after a brief tour – which, in fairness, was only brief because the school is so small – we thanked our host for her hospitality, and set off to get as drunk as is humanly possible for two middle-aged men.

Having learned that Golden Boy was running ‘a little late’ (which shocked no one), Tim and I devised a wager on our friend’s actual arrival time – bearing in mind the original plan had been for us all to meet outside the school at 4pm – with the forfeit being a shot of something unpleasant for the loser.

Needless to say, I won the bet – albeit only by a few minutes – when Golden Boy eventually arrived shortly after 6.30pm, but Tim’s forfeit of downing a Jagerbomb (on top of the several pints we had already consumed), somehow ended up involving me having two Jagerbombs – as I happen to enjoy them very much.

From that point on, it was a slippery slope, and I ended up crawling back to my Mum’s house shortly after 1.30am (if you are under thirty and reading this, that’s fucking late for us middle-aged folk, ok?) and felt incredibly rough the next day.

Still, a good night was had by all, and it’ll be our forty-year reunion before we know it.

Thanks for reading x

Standard

Another Blog In The Wall

On Tuesday, I attended Parents’ Evening at our boys’ school.

69921654_10156597884408366_7134080299452858368_n

Now, you might think this is not a particularly big deal (and certainly nothing worthy of a blog entry), since dozens of parents were there, and no doubt many of you with children have attended parents’ evenings yourselves in the past – if not already this academic year – so my ‘achievement’ is certainly nothing special.

However, please bear in mind the following:

  1. My wife was away on a school trip for the first part of the week (she is a teacher herself), so I was attending parents’ evening alone for the first time;
  2. Because my wife has been a teacher for many, many years (while still looking as young as the day I married her*), she usually does all the talking at parents’ evening, since she knows what to ask – and, more importantly, what not to ask;

which leads me to….

  1. I am often uncomfortable in situations where it would be wholly inappropriate to default to my defence mechanism of trying to be funny, so I will usually panic… and then default to my defence mechanism of trying to be funny.

*well recovered, that man.

My naivety when it came to attending parents’ evening alone was apparent well before the event itself, as I received an e-mail a couple of weeks ago confirming the online booking system was open, and since my wife had warned me to reserve the appointments quickly before all the best slots went, I went immediately to the site to ensure I had my pick. After all, the earliest I could get to school would be 5.30pm, and the last appointments were around 6.15pm, so with two sets of teachers to meet, I had little room to manoeuvre.

Fortunately, there were plenty of slots within my window of availability, so I initially selected 5.45pm to speak with Isaac’s teacher, and 5.55pm for Ollie’s. I then panicked, however, that this would cause issues with collecting Ollie from football training (which was due to finish at 6pm), so I cancelled those and moved everything slightly earlier to 5.40pm and 5.50pm.

Such is my indecisiveness, however, and the fact that I was under strict instructions not to fuck this up,  I decided that the earlier appointments probably made little difference, and perhaps it might be best if Ollie missed football training this week. I could then take both boys with me, and Ollie could (hopefully) make sure Isaac behaved while I was meeting their teachers. I therefore cancelled the re-arranged appointments, and re-re-arranged them back to 5.45pm and 5.55pm.

Naturally, I then doubted this decision, and having questioned why I would leave the appointments so late, particularly now that football training was no longer a factor, and I could potentially be home in time for Eggheads, I re-re-re-arranged the appointments back to 5.40pm and 5.50pm.

It was only when I logged in to my e-mail account later that day, I realised I had received messages every time I had changed my mind, so my inbox looked like this:

19/09/2019      13:15     Parents Evening – Appointments Booked

19/09/2019    13:16   Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled

19/09/2019      13:16      Parents Evening – Appointments Booked

19/09/2019   13:17    Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled (again)

19/09/2019    13:17     Parents Evening – Appointments Booked. You sure this time?

19/09/2019   13:17   Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled (What the fuck is the matter with you?)

19/09/2019     13:18    Parents Evening – Appointments Booked. Cancel them again, and we’ll block you from our system, you indecisive prick.

Ok, the latter e-mails didn’t exactly say that, but I had to pray the system was fully-automated, and the school would not discover how much I had messed around and changed my mind, because the office staff would then surely mark me down as some kind of moron for future administrative challenges.

The main thing was, the appointments were reserved, as I proudly informed my wife over dinner that evening (omitting to mention the many e-mail exchanges I had triggered via the online system). My bravado was, however, short-lived.

“What times did you go for?”

“5.40 for Isaac, and 5.50 for Ollie.”

“What?! Why have you only left five minutes between them?”

“Because I don’t want to be hanging around, and can be home by 6pm.”

“Why do you need to be home by 6pm?”

[whispers] “Eggheads.”

“What?”

“I thought Ollie might go to training, so I’d need to pick him up.”

“No, you’ll never get there in time, because the teachers are always running late, so now not only will you have to tell Ollie he can’t go to training, but you’ll miss the second appointment because you’ll still be waiting for Isaac’s teacher, and that means you’ll then have to wait until the end of the night to see Ollie’s teachers.”

“Sorry.”

“Idiot.”

Once my wife had calmed down (which was a full week later), I asked her for some pointers on the questions I should ask while at the appointments, because I had only managed the following list:

Questions To Ask At Parents’ Evening

Isaac

  1. Is he this much of a prick at school?
  2. Has he hit anyone?
  3. Could you have a word with the catering staff, and tell them to stop giving him ketchup, baked beans, or tomato soup, as it’s costing us a fucking fortune in white polo shirts?

Ollie

  1. Does he ever shut up?
  2. He claims he hasn’t been in trouble for talking since he started back in September, and I’ve warned him that, if he has lied to me, and has been in detention just once, I’m going to properly bollock him. So?
  3. Could we possibly speed this up? Eggheads starts at 6.

 

Needless to say, my wife was less than impressed with the list I had prepared, so she gave me a few genuine issues we wanted addressing; and, as I walked to the school on Tuesday evening, I received the same piece of advice from her via WhatsApp that I give to both boys daily when I drop them off at their respective classrooms:

Don’t fuck this up

As I arrived through the gates, and collected Isaac from his after-school club (Ollie had gone to football training in the end, since the mum of one of his teammates had kindly offered to give him a lift both ways), I realised I had a few minutes until my first appointment in the ‘Infant Hall’, so we went to his classroom to have a look through his books (which the children always display, for parents to check what they have been working on).

Having made encouraging comments about how much his handwriting was progressing, and how wonderful the portrait of his friend was (I’m not sure which kid the portrait was of, but if it was a genuine likeness, the poor boy has not been blessed with good-looks), there was just enough time for him to show me where he sits on the carpet each day – and for me to feign interest in front of the puzzled parents around us – before it was time to return to the Hall for my appointment. I was, after all, determined to finish speaking to his teacher on time, in order to make the second meeting with Ollie’s teachers by 5.50pm, so I could boast to my wife later in the evening when she got back from her trip.

Sadly, as I played the future conversation with my wife over and over in my head (and each time it concluded with her apologising and admitting I had been right to book the slots I had – then offering ‘sexy time’ by way of apology), I neglected one crucial point:

I have never been right in our fifteen years of marriage

So, when Isaac’s teacher finished her current appointment at precisely 5.40pm, and I strode over to her table with all the arrogance and confidence of a man who was about to win his first ever marital dispute, I was shocked to notice a couple sit down before me. I then had to walk back to the ‘general seating’ in the middle of the hall, like a man who had just been rejected by a lady in a bar (a walk which, in my younger years before meeting my wife, I was all-too-familiar with).

Parents Eve

Generic photo from Google

Not only that, but the rejection was repeated every few minutes, as one set of parents would leave, and I would rise from my seat, only to notice someone else sit down first. Needless to say, this meant the clock reached 5.50pm, and I was now late for my second appointment with Ollie’s teachers, so when I spotted a brief gap between parents who all had appointments before mine, I quickly explained to Isaac’s teacher that I would need to go to the Junior Hall and come back later. After all, I didn’t want to leave and then have her wondering where I was.

Thankfully, Ollie’s two teachers were on time, and I listened to what a superstar he is for a few minutes, fully aware that this was probably lulling me into a false sense of security before meeting Isaac’s teacher. I had booked the appointments in this order for a reason, as I wanted the bad news first. Sure, Ollie still chatters too much, but that’s only because he appears to be under the gross misunderstanding that his verbal diarrhoea is of universal interest, and his teachers have now learned to ‘tune him out like white noise’, so the feedback was generally very good.

One down, one to go.

It wasn’t long after I returned to the Infant Hall before it was my turn to meet Isaac’s teacher, and, fortunately, his feral behaviour at home still hasn’t made its way into the classroom. In short, he is apparently a joy to teach, and is actually quite shy and reserved in class (I did ask whether she’d mixed her notes up, and we were discussing the wrong child).

As with the first meeting, I chatted, made appropriate eye contact, smiled / looked interested at the right times, and, most pleasing of all, didn’t make any stupid jokes (to my knowledge). Both boys were performing well at school, and I was performing well at parents’ evening. The male contingent of our family was smashing it.

So, as the second appointment started to wind down, I allowed my mind to wander back to thoughts of bragging to my wife about how I had coped perfectly well without her. I was so close to not fucking this up, and could almost smell the sweet scent of victory.

It was only then, as I thanked Isaac’s teacher and stood up to leave, I noticed the hole in the crotch of my trousers.

Image result for face palm gif

So very close.

Standard

Blog To School

Last Tuesday, our boys returned to school – Ollie into Year 5 (which, for anyone unfamiliar with the English education system, is the penultimate year before leaving for Secondary School), and Isaac into Year 1 (which, for anyone unfamiliar with the English education system, is the point at which you no longer give a shit).

69488982_2466075293626311_7848138790169214976_n

Look, when your kids start primary school in the ‘reception’ class, even the battle-hardened among us, who have been there before with elder siblings, have a few concerns (even if, unlike the first time around, we care considerably less); but by Year 1, most parents have lost interest altogether. So long as your child doesn’t set fire to anything, attack anyone, or use one of ‘Daddy’s Angry Words’ when addressing a teacher, there’s very little else which can go wrong.

Then again, most parents don’t have an Isaac.

As you may have gathered over the last few years of my blog, Isaac is not like ‘normal’ children. Admittedly, I would argue there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ child, and any so-called expert who says otherwise is a moron, but even allowing for some variation between kids, Isaac is uniquely odd. It’s one of the reasons we love him so.

As an example, Ollie recently tried to trick Isaac with the old ‘What do cows drink?’ conundrum (where the recipient is supposed to be fooled into answering ‘milk’ rather than ‘water’), but Isaac – having paused only briefly – shouted ‘Sausages!’

See what I mean?

Cow_female_black_white.jpg

Anyway, while we therefore had a few concerns about Isaac returning to school last week, the good news (for me) was that my wife will be doing the morning drop off on Mondays and Tuesdays this year, so the responsibility of escorting our youngest – and most untamed – child to his new teacher, was entirely hers.

As a side point, every single one of the teachers I have met at our boys’ school is delightful (which is, in itself, rather worrying, as I don’t think I could handle thirty little children every day without drinking heavily and calling at least one or two a ‘fucking dickhead’ every once in a while), and I always feel bad when a new teacher suddenly finds themselves responsible for either Ollie’s nerdiness, or Isaac’s brutal savagery.

I have genuinely contemplated leaving notes in the boys’ bags at the start of each academic year, along the lines of ‘Look, we’ve tried to be good parents, but somewhere along the line we clearly screwed up, and this is what we’re left with – sorry’ but my wife won’t let me. Besides, despite his demonic tendencies at home, Isaac appears to be the model pupil at school, so they never believe us when we say we have previously considered performing an exorcism.

Image result for exorcism gif

Anyway, as my wife was responsible for the first school run on Tuesday, I gleefully trotted off to work nice and early, and made a mental note to check my phone shortly after 9am, just to make sure the rest of the family had survived the ordeal. Sure enough, when I checked at 9:05am, my wife had messaged to say both boys were safely within their respective classrooms – although it was Ollie who had surprisingly created the bigger issue, by insisting on taking in a large stack of ‘contracts’ he had drawn up for the football team he has created for his year group.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, it is perfectly clear to all but Ollie that no one gives a shit about his stupid football team, but rather obliviously he has still recruited most of his year to take part – even allocating some of the non-footballers among his peers  either coaching or physio roles, and rather chauvinistically setting up a ‘ladies’ team for the girls (even though I could name quite a few who are better footballers than him).

Oh, and if this wasn’t nerdy enough, he also took his Rubik’s cube into school, too. Honestly, when I was at school, I was studious, skinny, wore big glasses, and seemed to have based my hair style on that of my mother, and even I would have picked on Ollie.

Still, he’ll realise in later life that geeks have better job prospects and attract nicer partners, so I’m sure it’ll work out for him in the long run.

Even better than the first drop-off going well, Isaac apparently came skipping out of class at the end of the day, saying he had enjoyed a ‘super, super time!’ (which was uncharacteristically camp for Isaac), and describing his new teacher, who we shall call ‘Miss X’, as a mixture between Miss Lovely from Horrid Henry, and Miss Honey from Matilda. Even if you are not familiar with either character, you can gauge their personality from the names they have been given. In short, Isaac seemed besotted with his new teacher.

(NB: Just to be clear, I am only referring to his new teacher as ‘Miss X’, because it would be inappropriate to use her real name. Her surname does not begin with X, and to my knowledge she is neither a Bond-villain, nor a dominatrix).

Anyway, much as I was relieved that the boys had enjoyed a good first day, I was still acutely aware that it was my turn to do the school run the following morning, and any success from the day before could easily be undone after a few minutes of Daddy being in charge.

As a result, I made a point of getting the boys ready for school extra early (pretending we had to leave the house in ‘FIVE MINUTES!’, when actually we had a comfortable fifteen before needing to depart), and we found ourselves in the ‘junior’ playground in good time – even accounting for the fact Isaac insisted on riding his new bike all the way, and the fact that Ollie was trying to prove he is grown-up enough to walk to school by himself, while simultaneously trying to cross the road in front of a car.

So far, so good.

Then, things took a bit of an awkward turn.

Having safely dropped Ollie off in the junior playground (and, when I say ‘dropped off’, I mean ‘shouted at to explain that I was leaving, and he should under no circumstances see that as a green light to start behaving like a twat’), Isaac and I headed around the school building to the infant playground, and stood outside his new classroom.

It was at this point that I started to ask Isaac about his new teacher, as she is not someone my wife and I have had previous dealings with (she has never taught Ollie), and with a name like ‘Miss X’, I was intrigued to meet her (no, wait, that’s not her real name).

More importantly, I needed to speak to her about the reading book Isaac had been given to start the year, as he was finding it quite tough. Ok, he’s not an enthusiastic reader at the best of times, but you find me one five-year-old who can happily flick their way through Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (joke – it was actually The Canterbury Tales).

As we stood outside his classroom, next to a couple of mums who were chatting away to our right, I asked Isaac whether he wanted me to speak to Miss X about his book, or whether he would rather do it. Being naturally quite timid at school (in direct contrast to the Tasmanian Devil of hatred and violence he is at home), he asked if I would speak to her.

It was at this point I noticed the time was already 8:55am, which is when the children are usually taken into class, and since there was no sign of Miss X, I looked at Isaac and quipped, “well, if your teacher ever turns up, I’ll happily speak to her.” I may have also tutted while looking at my watch.

To my horror, one of the two ‘mums’ to our right then approached me and introduced herself. “Hello, I’m Miss X, can I help at all?”

Image result for horrified gif

Damn it.

Yes, I had been so preoccupied with ensuring our two boys made a good impression at the start of their new academic year, I had completely ignored the fact it was far more likely to be me who made a mess of things.

Fortunately, I think Miss X only overheard part of what I was saying about Isaac’s book, because if she did catch my harsh comment about her tardiness so early into the school year (which was particularly uncalled for, bearing in mind she was already outside her classroom well before I had arrived), then she did not let on. And, if she chose to ignore my rudeness and not react, then she is even lovelier than Isaac described.

After we had resolved the issue with the book, and she had moved towards the classroom door to start ushering children in, I quickly asked Isaac why he hadn’t warned me that was his teacher stood next to us.

“I thought you knew.”

“How would I know? I’ve never met her before!”

“Oh, yeah. Oops.”

I swear he did it deliberately….

Thanks for reading x

Standard

Spaghetti Blognese

My wife and I don’t always agree on everything – but one thing we do agree on, is that Italy is at the very top of our ‘countries we would both like to visit, that neither of us have ever been to’ list.

Say what you like about the Italians (unless you happen to be Prince Phillip, in which case you had better stay quiet), but there aren’t many things they do badly – except, perhaps, pop music, and choosing sides during a world war. They look good, they sound great, and most things they turn their perfectly bronzed hands to they excel at: food, art, cars, football, architecture, the making of the love*, riding a moped without a helmet…. as a nation they are just so damn sexy.

*this is an educated guess, as I have never slept with an Italian.

download (2)

In fact, Ollie’s current topic at school is ‘Italy’ (which is actually the reason behind this week’s entry, but we’ll get to that in a bit), so I just asked him to name something the Italians are rubbish at, and the best he could come up with was ‘knowing when to run away from a volcano.’ I think that speaks volumes, really, don’t you? According to my nine-year-old, the last time the Italians were truly shit at something was a little under two thousand years ago (although, in fairness, we didn’t let him stay up for Eurovision this year). In contrast, I don’t think we Brits could last two thousand minutes without badly fucking up something. And we don’t have volcanoes to contend with.

Anyway, I don’t wish to appear uncultured, as I do appreciate Italian art and architecture to an extent (well, at least as far as my 1996 A-grade in GCSE Art will allow), but my two main reasons for desperately wanting to visit Italy are firstly to watch a Serie A football match (just don’t tell Ollie, as he’s been pestering me to take him to Juventus ever since we got back from Barcelona a couple of years ago) and, secondly, to eat their food. All their food.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Chinese and Thai food as much as the next man (assuming the next man really loves Chinese and Thai food), and given the choice of a meal out I would always opt for a curry; but Italian is the one cuisine where I could happily order most of the menu and not be disappointed. Apart from tiramisu. Tiramisu is shit.

download

Shit

Such is my admiration for Italy (and I say this without ever having visited, so I suppose the reality may disappoint, but I doubt it), around a decade ago I took a course of Italian evening classes to try to learn a bit of their language. I’m not sure what I hoped to achieve from this, as languages have never been my strong point, but the classes took place at my wife’s school (so they were not only convenient, but I got them for half price), and I suspect deep down I was just desperate to make myself a little sexier. And, yes, I know what you’re all thinking, ladies, ‘how on earth do you improve on that?’, but even Adonis-like specimens such as myself can strive to better themselves. Anyway, I promptly forgot everything I had learned within around a month of the course finishing, so the whole exercise was entirely fucking pointless.

Honestly, I can’t even remember how to count to ten in Italian now, and it frankly scares me how little I retained (particularly when this was pre-fatherhood, so there was no excuse for my brain turning to mush). Then again, over the course of twelve weeks, at no point did we ever cover ‘food and drink’, or ‘saying something sexy to make women go weak at the knees’, so arguably it was a waste of time anyway. Why would I ever visit Italy for a week or two, and need to ask someone when their birthday is, or the best way to the library? I can’t even count to ten in Italian, so what the fuck could I hope to achieve in one of their libraries?

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, Ollie’s topic at school this term has been Italy (following on from Ancient Rome and Pompeii last term) and, to conclude their time in Year 4, on Wednesday the class created their own Italian cafe, so they could cook for their parents as a treat. How delightful (said with only a hint of sarcasm).

Having been split into small groups a couple of weeks ago, the children then set about creating their own menu (from an admittedly limited range of options suggested to them by the teachers), and Ollie’s group decided to serve margherita pizza, followed by panna cotta with strawberries. Ok, perhaps not my first choices from an Italian menu, but still perfectly acceptable, and I suspect the children were restricted by what the teachers knew how to cook in the first place. Besides, when the alternative dessert option was tiramisu (which, as we all know, is Italian for ‘creamy work of the devil himself’), Ollie could have done a hell of a lot worse – pun intended.

Then, to save the expense/hassle of each child having to bring a vast array of ingredients into school, each group divided the shopping list between them to lessen the burden, and Ollie was given the task of sourcing the following:

‘00’ flour

Mozzarella

Cornflour

Whole milk

Ok, the list could have been easier, because we only had one of those ingredients in the house at the time (cornflour, for anyone who is curious), but when I spotted that one girl’s parents had been lumbered with ‘gelatine leaves, vanilla pods and yeast’, I decided not to complain too loudly. At least two of our ingredients didn’t necessitate a trip to sodding Waitrose.

Now, had the meal itself been a disaster, I would have felt sorry for Ollie and his classmates, as I know how much effort they put into designing and running ‘Café Italiano’, but equally it might have made for a funnier and more entertaining blog entry. As it happens, however, the event was a complete triumph.

When we arrived, the classroom had been emptied, with all the desks moved outside next to the playing field so we could dine ‘al fresco’. Each table of four then had place settings, and generally speaking there were two children plus an adult each per table, but Ollie and I were sat with a couple of boys whose parents couldn’t be there. Oh well, at least that meant I didn’t have to make polite conversation with a parent I didn’t know/like.

Once seated, the teacher came round with water for everyone (I did think about jokingly asking to see the wine list, but then stopped myself when I realised she was probably quite stressed, and therefore not in any sort of mood to be dealing with dickhead jokers like me).

While the drinks were being served, and some late comers were still being seated, one man spotted his daughter returning from the kitchen/classroom, and went to greet her – at which point she immediately burst into tears right next to our table. It transpired that she wasn’t expecting either of her parents to be able to attend, and was so overcome with emotion when she saw her father, she started crying with happiness.

Typically, at the same time, my hayfever must have flared up, because my eyes started watering too (shut up). It was like one of those videos you see on Facebook, where the little child doesn’t expect Daddy to make it home for Christmas, because Daddy is in the army and stationed somewhere like Iraq or Afghanistan, but then the Santa Claus in the grotto pulls his beard down and there’s Daddy and everyone cries and…. Fuck it, I’ve gone again.

Image result for man holding back tears gif

Anyway, soon after, Ollie returned from the kitchen with our first course of margherita pizza, and I have to say it looked and tasted far better than I was expecting:

While tucking in, one of the ‘Café orphans’ nearby sat down with his starter of ‘freshly baked ciabatta with olive oil’, and, having taken one bite, commented on how strong the olive oil was. Upon hearing this, a child at the table behind him, who was enjoying the same starter, piped up with ‘well, it is extra virgin, after all’, and I damn-near spit my water everywhere laughing.

Once the first courses were finished, the children disappeared back to the kitchen to fetch either their mains or desserts, depending on what second course they were offering, and Ollie presented me with a particularly lovely panna cotta, complete with strawberry compote:

67095157_10157437079201350_8683722289604198400_n

Again, this looked and tasted better than I had anticipated, and when Ollie didn’t particularly enjoy his, I even finished it for him (using the argument that I didn’t want him to get into trouble for not eating his lunch, when actually I was just being greedy).

As it happens, because my expectations of ‘Café Italiano’ had been low, I had already eaten a quick lunch before leaving the office, and secretly confided this in Ollie – while phrasing it in such a way as to not hurt his feelings. I needn’t have worried, however, as he then told me he had scoffed a roast gammon dinner in the school canteen about half an hour before I arrived, so clearly neither of us had much confidence in the café’s success.

More fool us, because the whole event went very well, and I even jokingly asked the teacher where the tip jar was situated because I was so impressed. Of course, I then immediately regretted making another joke, when she loudly announced to all the parents that they would indeed be accepting tips, and people started glaring at me.

My attempts to quickly distract everyone with some exotic sounding Italian didn’t work, either, as it transpired one of the parents spoke the language far better than me, and immediately started directing me towards the fucking library.

Thanks for reading x

Standard

Usain Blog

Usain1

The week before last, it was the boys’ sports day at school.

As Isaac is in reception, this was his first ever official sports day (although he did briefly feature in the pre-school version last summer), and in typical Isaac fashion he didn’t want to take part.

Now, when children don’t want to do something, their reactions usually range from eventually accepting the inevitable (‘if you don’t do it, you’ll get into trouble’), to the ever-popular strategy of bawling their fucking eyes out, like that has ever made the slightest bit of difference in the history of parenting.

Isaac, on the other hand, chose to take his protest to the next level – nudity, and he was still stark-bollock naked, screaming on the floor, two minutes before we were due to leave the house.

However, despite the obvious stress and upset this caused, as leaving for the school run always seems to be a rushed affair (I once asked the boys to start getting ready at 6.30am, just to prove my point, and we still ended up forcing shoes on and yanking Isaac’s hair into something remotely resembling a ponytail as we flew out of the door at 8.40am), I was secretly quite pleased with his tantrum.

The reason for this, was that for the first time since Ollie started school in 2014, I was unable to attend sports day myself (due to the fact my already sparse annual leave is rapidly running out), so my mum had driven over to watch Isaac in that morning’s ‘infant sports day’, while my wife was free in the afternoon to watch Ollie in the junior events.

Now, you might think that Isaac throwing a fucking wobbly would be best kept to ourselves, and that I might be embarrassed for my mum to see such behaviour from her youngest grandson; but he always behaves impeccably for her, and I don’t think until that point she had ever truly believed us when we told her (frequently), what a little shitbag he can be – so it was nice for her to see the real Isaac in all his hairy, naked, screaming glory.*

(*when I say ‘hairy’, I do of course mean his long hair, rather than any bodily fur – he’s not that feral).

Had it been solely down to me, I may very well have dragged a completely naked Isaac to school by his ponytail, just to teach him a lesson. Fortunately, however, my mum was more level-headed, and did a far better job of reasoning with him (apparently, in these situations, my tactic of growling ‘put your fucking pants on now, or I will fuck you right up’ is somewhat counter-productive), and we somehow left the house with him not only fully-clothed, but wearing the green t-shirt (his ‘house’ colours) which had kicked off the spat in the first place.

Ok, he wasn’t wearing a hat like the school had requested (it was originally forecast to be gloriously sunny weather), but we had video evidence on my phone of what a little shit he had been right up until the point we left the house, and I was more than happy to show it to his teachers, should any of them dare to question his lack of headwear.

In the end, we arrived at school on time, sent Ollie off to his classroom wearing a red t-shirt in preparation for the afternoon’s events (yes, the boys are in different houses, which has caused many arguments about which is better), and escorted Isaac around to the infant playground before he could change his mind. Here, I left my mum in one of the seats near to the start line on the school field, while I gladly handed Isaac over to his teachers (whispering ‘good luck dealing with this today’), before making my escape.

Obviously, I only have my mum’s account of what happened next, as I had to dash to work, but the child who hated the thought of participating in sports day (and who was apparently still sulking as he lined up for his first event), somehow secured two golds and two silvers from the four races he was in. Better still, he scored the most points of any child in reception, and got a high-five from the headmistress for his efforts. You honestly couldn’t make this shit up. Although, the fact that one of those golds was in the dressing-up race, comes as no surprise whatsoever….

The thing is, a British school ‘sports day’ is a rather unique experience, particularly when it comes to the definition of what constitutes ‘sport’. It is very rare to encounter a four-year-old child taking part in a recognised Olympic event at their school sports day (although, in fairness, arming the little fuckers with javelins probably wouldn’t be the best idea), and the closest Isaac came to what I would consider a ‘proper’ race, was the 50m dash. Which he came second in.

Instead, sports day usually comprises novelty races, using random items like sacks, beanbags, and the ever-popular egg-and-spoon combo; and these events seldom go according to plan.

The Sack Race

The Idea: Children either begin the race already stood in their sack, or it is placed a short distance from the start line for them to run to and climb in, before they will joyfully hop or bounce the remainder of the distance to the finish line.

The Reality: Unless the children start the race already ‘sacked up’, at least a few will somehow manage to change lanes before they have even reached their respective sacks, leaving one or two so confused and sackless that they immediately retire from the event in tears. Then, once everyone else is safely inside their sacks, at least half will instantly fall over, and the majority of those will end up crying too. Finally, from the remaining children who do at least complete the course, almost all will have ended up face first in the grass at some point, so aside from the winner, everyone else will be sobbing by the time the race is done (much to the hilarity of the spectating parents and teachers).

51vaADULe8L

(photo clearly staged, as none of them are crying/bleeding)

The Beanbag Race

The Idea: Children place a bean bag onto their head, then walk/jog steadily to the finish line without it falling off.

The Reality: The beanbag falls off so frequently (on average, every four steps), that all the children end up cheating by holding it firmly in place for the majority of the event. Everyone turns a blind eye, because the alternative would be to disqualify all the children, resulting in them crying again.

hqdefault

Cheating

The Egg and Spoon Race

The Idea: To walk the length of the course with an egg (or, more commonly these days, a ping pong ball – for safety reasons, and the fact that no parent wants to end up cleaning egg off their child) balanced precariously on a spoon.

The Reality: Some devious little fucker keeps their thumb over the egg to hold it in place (having learned in the beanbag race that cheating occasionally pays off) and manages to sprint the entire course to the finish line without it ever looking even remotely close to falling off the spoon. No teachers find this in the slightest bit suspicious, despite the fact the child in question wins the race by at least thirty seconds.

Egg_&_spoon_finish_line

***

Other popular Sports Day events include the ‘Dressing-Up Race’, which will usually (and, somewhat inexplicably) require your child to adorn themselves in a high-visibility jacket, over-sized hat and wellington boots by the end of the race, with each item of clothing spaced equidistantly throughout the course. Additional clothing items may also include dresses and gloves; and sometimes teachers will throw in the collection of a handbag as the final item before the finish line, to complete the ‘elderly-woman-from-the-1950s’ ensemble.

For some reason, schools still persist with including the Dressing-Up Race as part of the traditional Sports Day, despite the fact children will almost certainly never clothe themselves in anything so ridiculous and dated in their entire life. I suppose the rationale behind the unusual choice of outfit is that it is entertaining for the parents, but really it would be more practical to have the children start in their pyjamas, before gradually gathering items of school uniform by the end of the race – at least this way, it would be good practice for the school run every morning.

Finally, we have the parent races. Here, as if being forced to participate in the dads’ event wasn’t bad enough, you will almost certainly encounter the very worst of fatherhood – the ‘Dickhead Dad’. Sometimes, this turns out to be a father you have chatted with in the playground, and who until that point struck you as a decent bloke; but there is a genetic flaw in a small proportion of the male population, which means they turn into a complete wanker as soon as they are placed into a competitive environment with other dads.

The first type of Dickhead Dad, is the guy who pretends to be reluctant to take part in the race, only to eventually ‘give in’, before stripping down to expensive running gear and a pair of spikes. He then wins the race comfortably, before claiming he ‘hasn’t run in years’.

The second – and even worse – type of Dickhead Dad, is the moron who clearly has no intention of winning, or even trying to win, and only takes part in the race because he thinks it is funny to trip up, or push over, as many other men as possible. There is a special place in hell reserved for people like this – and, in hindsight, it is perhaps a good thing primary schools don’t tend to feature a javelin event, otherwise people like me might find themselves imprisoned for impaling someone up the arse with one.

Thanks for reading x

Standard

Billy Blog Hat

One of my strongest memories of primary school (well, other than hating it for the first term, and being forced to wear the shittest uniform in the history of primary school education – it was predominantly brown and yellow with, rather inexplicably, a huge eagle on the front of the jumper), was learning to read via the ‘Roger Red Hat’ series of books.

Bizarrely, most of what I learned at high school and university has since evaporated from my brain (presumably because it was of little practical use), and nowadays I struggle to remember events from the week before, but I can still clearly recall that the books featured Roger Red Hat, Billy Blue Hat, and Jonny and Jennifer Yellow Hat (who I think were twins), and they all lived in the ‘village with three corners’.

In fact, having just checked online, it turns out the series was known as ‘One, Two, Three and Away’ (which rings no bells, whatsoever), and other than the fact Jonny is actually spelt ‘Johnny’, I was pretty much spot on – even down to the fact he and Jennifer were twins. Just look at the fucking state of them:

Initial reactions:

  • Roger is an overly-dramatic, beret-wearing tosser;
  • Billy needs to stop the hillside manspreading;
  • Johnny should rethink his wardrobe choices, as the ‘off-the-shoulder dungarees’ look is just sooooo Deliverance

Image result for deliverance gif

I have to say, I don’t remember Percy Green, who is mentioned as a fifth character in the series, but what has really surprised me, looking through the list of books apparently released over four decades, was the number of truly disturbing titles available:

  1. Jennifer Yellow-Hat and Mr Brown’s Goat – let’s just pray ‘goat’ isn’t a euphemism;
  2. No, Percy Green! – I might have to track down a copy of this, to see what the hell Percy did;
  3. The Big Man and the Little Mouse hey, it’s not the size of your mouse which matters.
  4. Stop it, Percy Green! – Christ, what’s Percy done now?
  5. Stop, Cried Alex this is genuinely the next book in the series, so I can only assume Percy Green did something unspeakable to poor Alex;
  6. The Donkey went to School Well, it was the 1980’s, and the Village with Three Corners does look pretty ‘rural’, so this should come as no surprise;
  7. Jennifer Yellow-Hat Went Out in the Sunshine followed by Jennifer Went Out in the Dark and then Jennifer Yellow-Hat Went to Town – like all great trilogies, I’ll wager the second installment of ‘Jennifer Went Out’ was the shittiest;
  8. Roger, the Stick and the Old Man – I dread to think what went on here *glances down the list, to check for future releases entitled ‘Roger Receives Life in Prison for Murder’*;
  9. Percy Green and Mr Red Hat’s Car – a tale of juvenile theft/joyriding, or a sinister child-abduction? Perhaps we’ll never know, as the next release was ‘Crash! The Car Hit a Tree’, quickly followed by ‘A Funeral in the Village with Three Corners’ (ok, I made the second one up);
  10. The Old Man and the Wind – standard. Happens to the best of us, pal;
  11. Jennifer in Dark Woods – she’s out again. I hate it when they ruin a perfectly good trilogy with a dubious spin-off release later on. Anyone remember Alien: Resurrection? I’m starting to think there was something sinister about Jennifer;
  12. Sita Climbs the Wall – I wonder if Sita was Mexican, and this was a terrifying premonition of Donald Trump’s presidency;
  13. When the School Door Was Shut – they were really dragging the barrel in the later series, weren’t they?
  14. The Big Man, the Witch and the Donkey – a bit ‘specialist’, but each to their own (plus, C.S. Lewis’ lawyers may want a word);
  15. The Little Old Man and the Magic Stick – put it away, little old man.
  16. Dancing Ann and the Green-Gruff Grackle – erm…. fucking what?!
  17. The King of the Magic Mountains – I suspect the author was on heavy medication by this point;
  18. The Horse that Flew in the Moonlight – yep, she was.

fede88e7e5171c1e4054c2d8750048c0--yellow-hats-red-hats

Anyway, before those of you who didn’t grow up with these books get all judgemental, they formed an important part of my childhood, and helped me learn to read. In hindsight, some of those titles (none of which I remember), may also explain why my own writing can be so obscure, but that’s not for me to say.

Sadly, not only did the series apparently finish at some point in the 1990’s (which I initially assumed to be when the author passed away, but it turns out she died in 2014, at the ripe old age of 93), they are no longer available for today’s youth, so I have been denied the opportunity of re-reading them with Ollie and Isaac, as a fond reminder of my own childhood.

Instead, my boys – like many other children around the country – have been subjected to a new gang of delinquents, known as ‘Biff, Chip, and Kipper’ (cue parents developing a Vietnam-style nervous twitch, at the very mention of those names).

Whatever you may think about the ‘One, Two, Three and Away‘ books, at least those children had normal names, and, to this day – despite having read most of the series – I’m still not sure which of Biff, Chip and Kipper is the girl. Not that it matters, necessarily, because the parents should be investigated for giving their children such ridiculous names in the first place (I was just relieved to discover ‘Floppy’ is the dog, because no boy needs to go through adolescence with that for a name).

As I was reading one of these books with Isaac last week, slowly losing the will to live as he struggled over the same word he had already read seventeen times, it struck me that this series is no better than the ones we had as kids.

In the end, the more Isaac read, the more concerned I became about the story; so I ended up photographing each page, in order to illustrate the various issues I have with this particular title, which is simply named ‘Spots’….

20190523_075129

  • Why has Kipper surrounded himself with the angriest looking toys I’ve ever seen?
  • What has he done to that bear to make him so mad?
  •  Why is Dad’s ear purple?
  • Why are his sideburns a different colour to the rest of his hair?

20190523_075202

  • Why do Biff and Chip have matching 1970’s jumpsuits on?
  • What kind of shopping list comprises apples, bread, dog food and a doorbell? I can only assume they shop in Aldi;
  • Who buys a ‘terraced houses’ calendar?
  • How does Dad not spend the remainder of the book in hospital, being treated for third-degree burns?

20190523_075235

  • I would be dubious of any doctor who turned up with hypodermic needles sticking out of her fucking handbag;
  • Is that a picture of George Michael on the girl’s wall?
  • What’s the fox grinning at?
  • What have the bear and the cat been up to, in order to look that guilty?

20190523_075320

  • That is one truly awful dressing gown, Mum. She looks like a stick of rock for fuck’s sake. Or a 1970’s deckchair.

20190523_075341

  • Look how smug Dad is, serving a breakfast of what appears to be hotdog, lentils, and a bottle of Lucozade – together with a giant bowl of what I sincerely hope are grapes and not green olives;
  • Does the newspaper say ‘Dagenham Post’? If so, I assume the headline ‘New Disaster Horror’ is all about the horror of living in Dagenham;
  • Those sideburns really make me uneasy.

20190523_075409

  • Is the man holding the dog up so it can see over the fence, or has it jumped?
  • What has the man done wrong, for his wife to glare at him like that? (Experience tells us, when he asks her later, the answer will almost certainly be ‘you know‘);
  • Is it because he appears to be staring at Mum’s knickers on the line (assuming they aren’t Dad’s)?
  • Speaking of mum’s knickers (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d type), how heavy are they that they require four pegs to hold them up, if a bed sheet only needs three?
  • Only a moron would hang the bed sheet like that, dragging it across the lawn where Floppy has presumably left lots of ‘treats’ lying around – and I don’t mean that bone.

20190523_075431

  • On behalf of men everywhere, I resent the suggestion we never go to the supermarket; and that, on the rare occasions we do, we try to pay for our weekly shop at the ‘basket’ checkout with a fucking cheque book;
  • In Dad’s defence, what’s the point in sticking the ‘8 items or less, Cash only’ sign half way down the aisle?
  • Is it just me who finds that hammer a bit sinister? Plus, I was right, they evidently do shop in Aldi.
  • Has he dropped the frozen turkey on yet more grapes? Mum will be shitting through the eye of a needle at this rate;
  • The bloke behind Dad needs to sort his waistline out, particularly if he’s going to insist on wearing double-brown. He looks like Bungle from Rainbow without the head on.

20190523_075514

  • How old is that TV?
  • Why is it switched off? Is it because Dad is too lazy to get up and turn it on, or was he watching something mucky before the rest of the family walked in?
  • Who did Mum’s make-up, Stevie Wonder?

20190523_075540

  • Dad seems pretty pleased about contracting whatever illness the rest of the family had. Either that, or he’s brewing a Dutch Oven under the covers;
  • Someone needs to tell Mum to look in a mirror and sort her face out;
  • This family is terrible at catering for the sick. You want soup when you feel unwell, not chicken, potatoes, and a bottle of wine;
  • Why is Dad’s ear no longer purple? It obviously wasn’t a birthmark at the start of the book, so what happened? Had he slept in some Ribena the night before?

And the book ends there, so clearly no one gives a shit what happens to poor Dad after he gets sick, and I also resent the fact the moral of the story appears to be ‘men don’t understand how difficult women have it.’

Sexist pigs.

Thanks for reading x

Standard

Rita, Sue and Blog Too

I suspect most of my readers know this by now, but I have two sons: Ollie, who will be nine in May, and Isaac, who turns five a few days earlier. They are both my sons (until genetic testing proves otherwise), but they could not be more different if they tried.

Oh, they certainly have similarities, and most of the traits they do share undoubtedly come from my DNA rather than my wife’s (such as being accident prone, short-tempered, and dashingly good looking, to name but two), but at the same time they could easily be mistaken as coming from different families.

For example, Ollie is very academic, generally quiet and reserved, and his two main passions are reading and football. Isaac, on the other hand, isn’t very fond of reading, hates football, has long hair like a mane, and can be extremely, erm…. challenging at times.

45057757_10156781155406350_1762825208739135488_n

Ollie is also a very sensitive and emotional child, who gets upset rather too easily (which, again, is typical of my contributed DNA rather than his mother’s), while Isaac only tends to cry when he is denied chocolate (and, if you have been paying attention, you will know that we as a family gave up chocolate for the month of February, to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation, so he has spent the last twenty-eight days in as foul a mood as you can possibly imagine).

So, on the whole, our boys are very different, but in the last few weeks they have both reached an important life-milestone (at roughly the same time, if not the same age): they have apparently both got girlfriends at school. Needless to say, my wife and I found this very sweet (then teased them both mercilessly) but they have approached the news in very different ways.

Ollie has vehemently denied that he has a girlfriend, to the point he eventually got very upset and – typically – cried when Isaac made fun of him, but we suspect he is at least keen on one of the girls in his class, because he blushed uncontrollably when we discovered her name. I have since tried to work out which one she is in the playground (so I can warn her that she can do better – joke), but he’s not giving a great deal away, and just tells me to shut up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be horrified if he actually started dating at the age of eight, because not only is that far too young to be in any kind of relationship, but I didn’t get a proper girlfriend until I was eighteen (and she’s now my wife), so the injustice of my son playing the field at half that age is frankly rather depressing.

I am, however, pleased that his opinion of the opposite sex seems to be maturing, because until recently he still considered girls to be in the same league as green vegetables – utterly disgusting. I think it would be quite sweet if, the next time there was a school disco, he got dressed up to impress the ‘other’ half of his class (because there is still a very obvious divide in the playground between the girls and the boys), rather than simply going as Darth Vader, as he has previously. And, in case of any confusion, this is not a metaphor for him being all dark and brooding, as he actually went dressed head-to-toe as Darth Vader. In his words “well, it said ‘dress to impress’, so I did”.

12391897_10153858244636350_8483459130673548938_n

It’s nice that he is maturing, and I am particularly pleased that he is growing up to be a well-rounded young man – but at the same time there’s no need for him to hurry, and merely accepting/appreciating girls is more than enough progression for now.

Then, we have Isaac.

Isaac is the one I am worried about, because he has already shown an interest in a number of girls in his reception class since he started in September, and I suspect this isn’t solely related to sharing tips on hair styles.

40452051_10156634749286350_5639450629840568320_n.jpg

One of his best friends, a girl from nursery, started school with him, and they have always been inseparable, so when he whispered to my wife recently that he has a girlfriend, we immediately expected it to be her, but it turns out his affections now lie elsewhere.

Again, it wouldn’t be fair of me to mention the girl by name, because I have a number of local followers, and so there is a (slim) chance one or both of her parents could read this, but suffice to say it isn’t a name we had heard him mention until earlier this week, so I have again been on the lookout in the playground to try and spot her.

As with Ollie, my wife and I suspect that this girl has no clue Isaac is keen on her, so when he claims to have a girlfriend, the relationship may be entirely one-sided, but they apparently shared a lovely moment playing with Play-Doh on Monday (as in the children’s modelling clay, rather than an unusually-named classmate), and he has been smitten ever since. Part of me is tempted to tell Ollie, so he can get his revenge for the teasing Isaac gave him a couple of weeks ago, but that would be just as cruel of me; and, besides, I happen to think it’s rather cute.

It has got me thinking about what they will be like when they are older and actually dating, however, and while I suspect Ollie will be very much like me (nervous and uncomfortable around girls until he is much more mature, when he will no doubt settle down at a relatively young age), Isaac is the one I am concerned about.

Isaac, despite only being four, is the one I already worry will be sneaking through a girl’s bedroom window in the dead of night, before being escorted back to our house by a disgruntled father. Isaac will be the one with a number of girls on the go at once (by all accounts, he already has), as ladies swoon over his flowing locks – assuming he keeps them when he is older. Ladies, I am told, like a wild man they think they can tame, and a bad boy who will treat them mean (at first). They like a work in progress. And, despite only being four, that description already suits Isaac rather well.

In truth, I’m a little jealous of him already, because I have never known – nor will I ever know – what it is like to have women fighting over me (unless it’s the elderly variety, who want something reaching from a high shelf in the supermarket), but I have no doubt Isaac will be breaking hearts all over the place when he’s older.

Thanks, as ever, for reading x

45294663_10156785524216350_6344711219353485312_n

Standard

Bloggy Kids

‘THE SCHOOL RUN’

A Short Play

40660307_10155805051478366_7042114101773860864_n

 

Dramatis Personae:

‘Daddy’ 

47494229_10156869451206350_8249457828478058496_n

A tall, good-looking man, who is struggling with the pressures of early middle-age, and who regularly overuses the words ‘fuck’ and ‘knobhead’.

‘Ollie’

40451958_10155795532208366_7464389767283605504_n

An eight-year-old boy, wiry, over-emotional at best.

‘Isaac’

38744576_10156579938726350_326974275401547776_n

Ollie’s younger brother, four. A feral wolf child, with the face and hair of a pretty little girl, but the empty black soul of a malevolent demon.

***

Narrator:  The following play is based on real-life events, which occurred in a small town in Cheshire, in January 2019.

 

ACT I

[The lights come up on a Living Room. Daddy enters stage right, wearing nothing but an ill-fitting towel. He is wet, and the impression is that he has just exited the shower. He looks harassed and hurried]

Daddy:  Why are neither of you ready yet?!

Ollie:     I’m ready!

Daddy:  You’re not wearing socks.

Ollie:     Oh, yeah.

Daddy:  And you’re still watching that idiot play FIFA on YouTube. For the final time, turn it off. I said I wanted you both dressed and ready by the time I got out of the shower. Don’t do this to me again!

Isaac:     Do what?

Daddy:   Get me stressed and make us late.

Isaac:     Can I have more cereal?

Daddy:  No. You’ve already had two massive bowls and we don’t have enough time or milk. We’re leaving the house in less than ten minutes and I have no clothes on yet. Do you want me to do the school run in just this towel?

Isaac:      YES!

Daddy:   Shut up. I’m going for a shave, and I want you both ready to walk out of the door by the time I come back downstairs.

Ollie:       Ok.

[Daddy quickly exits stage left, clutching the small towel at his waist to save exposing himself as he takes the stairs three at a time. Both boys remain motionless, with Ollie staring at a laptop screen, and Isaac watching Scooby Doo on the television]

***

 

ACT II

[The lights come back up on the Living Room. Both boys are in exactly the same position as they were at the end of Act I. Daddy rushes in stage left, now wearing a suit, and hurriedly straightening his tie]

 

Daddy:  What the HELL?! Ollie, turn that laptop off NOW. Isaac, turn the television off and find your hairbrush. Ollie, put some fu… put some socks on NOW.

Isaac:      I can’t find my hairbrush.

Daddy:   Get Mummy’s instead then.

Isaac:      Ok, Geoff.

Daddy:   Stop calling me Geoff. Ollie, why are you crying?

Ollie:      You shouted at me.

Daddy:   Do you know why?

Ollie:      No. I’ve not done anything wrong!

Daddy:  Really? How about ignoring me and making us late for school yet again? How about not getting dressed before watching those stupid videos on YouTube? How about leaving your cereal bowl there for Isaac to trip over? We have the same conversation every fu…. We have the same conversation every morning, and, for once, I would like to arrive in the school playground without worrying that I might collapse at any given second. Go and get your bags, brush your teeth, get your shoes and coat on, and wait by the front door. We’re leaving in two minutes.

[Ollie runs off stage left, sniffling loudly. Daddy quickly brushes Isaac’s hair, then struggles with an orange ‘bobble’ as he tries to put it into a ponytail. At one point, when Isaac isn’t looking, he silently screams ‘FUCK!’, then punches the sofa next to him. He rubs his knuckles, evidently in some pain]

Daddy:   Right, that’ll have to do.

Isaac:     Does it look ok?

Daddy:  Sure. Now, go downstairs, put your shoes and coat on, brush your teeth, and wait by the front door.

Isaac:     Ok, Geoff.

[Isaac leaves stage left, followed shortly after by Daddy, who is still rubbing his knuckles]

***

 

ACT III

[The lights come up on an entrance hall and front door. Both boys are now wearing coats. Daddy is putting his shoes on]

 

Daddy:   Right, have you both brushed your teeth?

Boys:      Yes

Daddy:   Both of you?

Boys:      Yes!

Isaac:    Actually, I haven’t.

Daddy:  Do them. Now.

[Isaac dashes to the side of the stage]

Daddy:   Ollie, have you got your swimming kit?

Ollie:      Yes.

Daddy:   And your £1 for swimming?

Ollie:     Yes.

Daddy:  Guitar?

Ollie:      Yes.

Daddy:   Drinks bottle?

Ollie:      Here.

Daddy:    What about the permission slip for your school trip?

Ollie:      Hey, that rhymes!

Daddy:   Shut up. Do you have your permission slip?

Ollie:       It’s in my pocket.

Daddy:    Is there anything else you need?

Ollie:       My Match Attax.

Daddy:  Balls to your Match Attax. Is there anything else you actually need for school?

Ollie:       No. I have my Match Attax anyway, I was just saying.

[Isaac returns from the side of the stage]

Daddy:   Isaac, have you got your school bag?

Isaac:     Yes, Geoff.

Daddy:   I asked you to stop calling me that. Do you have your drinks bottle?

Isaac:     Yes.

Daddy:   Have you both got your snacks for breaktime?

Boys:      Yes!

Daddy:   And do you remember what you’re having for lunch?

Ollie:      Roast chicken dinner!

Daddy:   Correct.

Isaac:     I’m having a packed lunch.

Daddy:   No, you’re not.

Isaac:     I AM!

Daddy:  No, you’re fuc… you’re having chicken dinner, remember? I asked you half an hour ago and you agreed. You said you love chicken dinner.

Isaac:     I hate chicken dinner! I want a packed lunch!

Daddy:   Tough. We’re late, and I haven’t got time. You’re having chicken dinner.

[Isaac now starts to cry]

Daddy:    Please, Isaac, we discussed this. I don’t have time to make a packed lunch. You told me you love chicken dinner. It’s just chicken, potatoes and veg.

[Isaac suddenly stops crying]

Isaac:     Yay! I love chicken dinner!

Daddy:   You little f-

Ollie:      Can we play a game?

Daddy:   What?! No! We need to leave, NOW.

Ollie:      Can we play a game on the way?

Daddy:   No. Look, I have a splitting headache, I’m stressed, and you two have again been no help whatsoever. He’s been up since 5.45am, you’ve both spent the past hour fighting –

Both:      He started it!

Daddy:   – I don’t care. You’ve both spent the past hour fighting, and I’m sick of it. We’re leaving the house and you’re going to have to run because we’re VERY late.

[Ollie opens the front door]

Ollie:      Erm, Daddy….?

Daddy:   What now?

Ollie:       It’s raining.

Daddy:   Oh, for fu….. right, put your hoods up. I’m just going to swap my coat for the waterproof one.

[Daddy quickly changes coats]

Daddy:    Ok, now can we leave?

Ollie:        Hang on. I can’t find my pound.

Isaac:       I don’t have any shoes on. And I need a wee.

[Daddy starts to turn purple, and the stage lights fade to the sound of a scream]

Daddy:     FUUUUU-

THE END

Standard

Nobody Puts Bloggy In A Corner

You may be aware that last week was national ‘anti-bullying week’ (frankly, every week should be anti-bullying week, but I do understand the rationale behind selecting one particular seven-day period to focus everyone’s attention on the issue).

Naturally, head teachers up and down the country dealt with this in different ways; but our boys’ primary school participated in ‘odd socks day’, inviting all the pupils to wear mismatched (and brightly-coloured) socks, as a symbol of unity against bullying, and to celebrate everyone’s individuality.

If you don’t follow my Facebook page (although I suspect the vast majority of those reading this do), you may not be aware that, on ‘odd socks day’, I posted a photograph of my two boys from the knees down, displaying their chosen footwear for the day. Here’s the photo:

46060558_2265223447044831_4592106185942892544_n

Yes, in true Isaac fashion, he refused to take part; and whilst my wife and I obviously accepted his choice, we were still concerned that he might change his mind once he arrived at school to be greeted by all the other pupils in colourful socks – or, worse (and rather ironically), that he might be teased for being the odd-one-out – so we shoved a spare (mismatched) pair in his bag just in case.

Bullying is an important issue, and whilst the focus tends to be on children during anti-bullying week, this is usually because:

  1. It is best raised early, before any adverse behavioural patterns are formed which might be harder to change in later life;
  2. Children are often less aware of the devastating effects that bullying can have (whether they happen to be the ‘bully’ or the ‘victim’);
  3. Children may be unaware of the various forms bullying can take, and that it needn’t be physical – or even in person – to still have terrible consequences;
  4. If adults think bullying is acceptable, then they are most likely beyond help, and should be sent away to live in a far-off land.

So, in a rare turn of events, the remainder of this week’s entry is aimed towards children, and whilst you adults are naturally invited to read on, I would appreciate it if you could share what follows with your own kids, or any that you happen to know.

Thanks.

***

Hi.

You probably don’t know me, or ever get to read what I write about, but that’s because I tend to be a bit rude and swear a lot. Hopefully, your Mum or Dad (or whichever grown-up has asked you to read this) likes my blog, and finds it funny.

I wanted to talk to you about bullying because, statistically, you will experience bullying at some point in your life (whether directly or indirectly), and it’s an issue which needs addressing. I am by no means an expert, but I have amassed a few readers over the years, and if the message gets through to just a few people, it was worth it. Besides, I was bullied at school, so I know what it’s like, and that’s a pretty good starting point.

Firstly, let’s get one common error out of the way. Bullying is not always physical, and can just as easily (perhaps even more easily) take the form of words rather than punches. You may even have bullied someone yourself in the past – even if you don’t want to admit it – because if you have ever teased someone, and taken the joke too far, that’s bullying.

Look, I like to make people laugh, and sometimes I do that at the expense of others, but I would like to think I know when to stop, and if the person who is the subject of the joke doesn’t find it funny, then that’s not right. I’ve made this mistake myself over the years, and hate to think I might have upset people, but I now try to find humour in other situations – preferably at my own expense, to be on the safe side. Fortunately, I embarrass myself quite a lot, so I’ve usually got plenty of material.

Bullying doesn’t even need to be in person, and that’s the really scary thing, because the internet (which, believe it or not, didn’t exist when I was your age), now makes it so much easier for bullies and – even worse – makes it much harder to detect and stop.

If a child comes home from school with a black eye, or a bloody nose, or a bruised arm, this is a visible sign that hopefully their parent(s) or teacher(s) will ask them about. Ok, it might be down to a simple accident (and my kids are always having accidents), but it could equally be the result of bullying. However, if that same person is being bullied online, or via their phone, it’s not as easy to spot, and that child’s misery may go undetected – or could be mistaken for something else.

I want you to take a second and think about your friends, classmates, siblings, and anyone else you are in contact with each day, and really think if you might have crossed that line at some point. If, like me, you have ever taken a joke too far at someone else’s expense, ridiculed them, or even physically hurt them, there’s still time to apologise and change.

Alternatively, maybe you are the one who has been bullied in the past, or you might even be the victim of bullying right now, and it’s you that I really want to talk to, because you can – and must – do something about it.

I am pleased to say I have never physically bullied anyone, but that is for one very simple reason, and it’s this:

38701208_10155742022128366_8510702487022338048_n

Just look at me. I’m not exactly physically threatening, am I? And that’s me now. Believe or not, I’m a lot more appealing as an adult than I was as a child/teenager. When I was at primary school, I had over-sized glasses and the hair of a fifty-year-old woman. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this:

46514200_10156829093686350_7899438850215247872_n

Then, when puberty hit, I developed even worse hair and terrible skin. Being skinny, wearing glasses, having acne, or being socially-awkward, is usually enough for any bully to work with, and I had all four going on at once.

I was an easy target, for most of my teenage years, and I’m just glad I was mentally strong enough to cope, because some days I was utterly miserable at school. It frightens me that not everyone has that inner-strength, and some victims of bullying fail to see a way out. Believe me, there is always a way out, because there is always someone out there willing to listen and help.

My escape was being funny (or, at least, trying to be).

I realised, when I was growing up, that I had a knack for making people laugh, and it gave me a buzz when others found me amusing. I slowly managed to alter people’s perception, so that rather than laughing at me, they laughed with me. Not everyone, obviously, and there were still some of the bigger kids who picked on me, but it only ever resulted in physical violence on a few occasions, so I suppose some people might see that as fortunate, even though psychological bullying can have longer-lasting effects.

Because I wasn’t ever blessed with good looks – some would say I’m still not – not to mention the fact I needed glasses from a young age (and, back then, wearing specs wasn’t as cool as it is today), I never had the distractions of going out lots, or girls, and so I worked hard at school instead.

I didn’t know it at the time, and if you’re in the same situation you may not appreciate it either, but being ‘geeky’ was one of the best things to happen to me. I got really good grades in my GCSEs, and even though I didn’t do as well in my A-levels (thanks, in no small part, to the fact I had been rejected by several girls in my year, and it started to get me down), I still went to a good university, then law school, and now I have a decent job.

Better still, when I was at university, I met a girl who was able to look past the crap hair and glasses (even though she later persuaded me to change both), and she fell in love with me for who I am. We got married in 2004, had our first son in 2010, and our second son in 2014. I still wish my school life had been happier, and perhaps filled with more female attention in the later years (ok, any female attention), but my point is this: everything worked out.

Popularity, sporting achievements, and having a boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t everything, I promise you. If you try to be a good, kind person, things will work out. You will be popular. You will find love. If I can get married, have kids, and enjoy a relatively successful career (I added the word ‘relatively’, because I’m typing this on my lunch break, and it ended about twenty minutes ago), then there is hope for us all.

Each and every one of us is amazing in our own way, and that includes you. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel worthless, or inferior, because it usually only means they are compensating for something missing from their own life.

And, if anyone does make you feel that way, whether their actions take a physical or psychological form, it is absolutely ok to tell someone, and get help. You never need to suffer on your own, and even if you don’t think you can speak to your parents, or teachers, or friends, there are charities like Childline. Their number, if you or anyone you know needs it, is 0800 1111.

Basically, just be you, because you are bloody brilliant.

Thanks for reading x

Standard

The Last BlogScout

A couple of weeks ago, I went camping with Ollie.

Ok, it wasn’t proper camping, and it was only one night, but bearing in mind I am to nature what Stevie Wonder is to clay pigeon shooting, I was still well outside my comfort zone. In fact, there was no comfort in this particular zone whatsoever.

A few months back, the PTA at Ollie’s school announced they would be hosting a ‘Camp Out’ on the school field, and it would be an opportunity for parents and children to sleep in tents, whilst enjoying a BBQ, live music, and all the other delights which camping has to offer (although, at present, those delights elude me).

Stupidly, I made the mistake of asking Ollie whether he was keen, and naturally he thought it was a fantastic idea. I only had myself to blame, as I should know by now that there is very little Ollie will not try at least once – apart from vegetables.

So, even though we owned no camping equipment whatsoever (the last time I slept in a tent was the Leeds Festival in 2000, and the fact I haven’t since – despite the intervening eighteen years – gives you some idea of how ‘fun’ I find sleeping outdoors), I was now committed.

Having carried out some research, and armed with a discount code from Mountain Warehouse, a few weeks ago I purchased a three-man tent, two sleeping bags, a double airbed (with pump), and travel pillows.

My main reason for investing in a three man tent, even though it would only be myself and Ollie sleeping in it, was so I would have extra room (at 6’3”, I need all the space I can get). What I didn’t foresee, was my wife suggesting I can now take both boys camping at some point, but I can assure you that there is a far greater chance of Satan building a snowman.

Anyway, as the event drew near, it became obvious that the weather wasn’t going to be great – and even though some people believe rain adds to the ‘charm’ of camping, I am not one of those people. Look, some people believe in clairvoyants, the healing powers of little crystals, and that the earth is flat – so clearly some people are morons.

Still, having forked out a tidy sum – despite the discount – I wasn’t going to let rain spoil our plans, and even though I am more Paddington Bear than Bear Grylls, I was determined to put my differences with camping aside, for the sake of my rather excited son.

I did, however, begin to worry that I would be the only Dad who struggled erecting his tent, and that other men might judge me. I am sure this was nothing more than paranoia on my part, and they would be more likely to judge me for sniggering every time someone said ‘erect’; but I have always been sensitive about what people think of me, and the fact I am the antithesis of a manly-man often plays on my mind.

I therefore chose to partially erect *snigger* the tent in our living room beforehand, as a trial run. I wasn’t planning on hammering tent pegs into the carpet, obviously, but if I could at least form an idea of how the damn thing assembled, I might minimise the risk of being UselessDad™ throughout the main event.

Except, not only was the tent far too big for the area between our sofas (which really irritated me, as I pride myself on having excellent special awareness; some say it is my best – or only – quality), but I chose the very moment my wife was trying to get Isaac asleep to attempt my erection *still sniggering*, and made too much noise in the process.

After more than half an hour of struggling with a piece of canvas so vast, I had started to wonder whether Mountain Warehouse had sent me a fucking parachute by mistake, I gave up, and reassured myself that I had at least gained an impression of what was required.

However, as is so often the case in these situations, folding the tent back up into the bag from whence it came was damn-near impossible; and even though I had predicted this might be an issue (so I had memorised precisely how it unraveled in the first place),  simply reversing the process did not produce the results I was after. The fucking thing had seemingly doubled in size as soon as it was exposed to air.

I don’t know whether Mountain Warehouse had vacuum-packed my tent, or flattened it with an industrial machine of some description (perhaps a steam roller), but there was not a chance I was going to be able to fold everything back into the same size.

A woman in this situation will patiently unravel the tent again, before methodically repeating the process of re-folding the components over and over, until she has satisfactorily replicated the original factory environment. She will then delicately return the tent to its bag, zip it shut with a triumphant smile, and go about her business.

A manly-man, on the other hand, will bear-hug the tent until all the air has escaped, and it has been adequately squashed back into a package small enough to force into the bag. He will then use his manly arms to yank the zip closed.

Me? I unfolded and refolded the tent at least a dozen times, becoming redder and angrier with every attempt, whilst uttering words no inanimate object should ever be subjected to. Let’s just say, ‘camping’, ‘children’ and ‘countryside’ aren’t the only C-words my tent has encountered.

I did eventually get everything back into the bag, but not without a great deal of effort, some burst blood vessels, more terrible language, and the fear I may have broken something (aside from myself) in the process. Still, everything was packed away – albeit into a bag now straining at the zip – and I resigned myself to ‘winging it’ on the day.

Due to the fact the ‘Camp Out’ started at 4pm (once the main school rush had dispersed), and because I didn’t want to be putting my tent up after everyone else – when they would have nothing better to do than laugh at my inadequacies – I booked the afternoon off work and collected Ollie early.

Whilst we were still one of the last to arrive, I was relieved to discover most had already pitched their tents and were congregating on the playground, rather than pulling up chairs to witness my abject failure as a father.

This was for the best, because when it came to unpacking our tent again (I say ‘unpacking’, but as soon as I forced the zip open, it more or less erupted out, like a volcano of blue canvas), and I had a bit more room to study the components, the assembly was not as I had imagined.

Thankfully, some children were playing football on the other side of the school field, so I sent Ollie to join them, while I commenced shouting and swearing at the tent once more. I was extremely careful not to utter any Grade-A expletives this time, but I did lose it at one point, and hiss through gritted teeth:

“Look, I’m going to insert my pole A into your bracket B in a minute, you piece of shit.”

I’m not proud of it, but I was under pressure to complete – and maintain – my erection in a suitably fast time (if I had a pound…), and the stress got the better of me.

Thankfully, in a moment of clarity, everything suddenly clicked – both metaphorically and, in terms of bracket B (as well as my hip), literally – and by the time Ollie wandered back to see how I was getting on, my massive heap of canvas now slightly resembled a tent. Kiss my arse, Ray Mears.

Utilising Ollie in very much a ‘hold this here, and don’t let go or I’ll scream’ capacity, I managed to secure the tent pegs and complete the remainder of our flimsy shelter for the evening without too much fuss.

20180914_182100.jpg

The inner-tent then attached with comparative ease, and despite the pump for our air bed making an embarrassingly high-pitched wheezing sound (which could have easily been mistaken for my christening the tent with an elderly asthmatic prostitute), before long we were fully erect and good to go (sorry, I can’t help it).

Ollie appeared delighted, and even congratulated me with “Well done, Daddy, you can have a nap now” (I need to stop going for a nap every time I achieve something useful around the house), but I decided to celebrate my success with a can of beer instead.

Fortunately, we finished putting the tent up just in time, as the Heavens opened shortly afterwards, which – rather than shelter with me – was Ollie’s signal to go back to playing football.

As the rain got heavier, I tried to shout for him to come back; but he either couldn’t hear me, or had engaged his selective deafness, because he didn’t so much as glance in my direction. Conscious that he only had one change of clothes, which were supposed to be for the following day, I reluctantly left the sanctuary of our tent to drag him back inside.

Whilst he initially refused, once I had carefully explained the situation using words like ‘soaked’, ‘pneumonia’ and ‘bollocking’, he eventually returned to dry out. The fact I was now drenched as well did nothing for my mood, and the final straw was when he stumbled into the tent, kicked my freshly opened can of beer over, and soaked our ‘porch’. Fortunately, the can stayed out of the sleeping quarters, and missed soaking our bags, which was the only thing that saved Ollie from being launched over the nearest hedge.

I have to say, however, once my rage subsided, the remainder of the evening went really well, and the PTA did an amazing job – with a BBQ, music, marshmallows, and games for the kids (including a treasure hunt around the playground).

Ok, I got barely two hours sleep – thanks in no small part to the fact I had purchased a sleeping bag ever-so-slightly too short, and because Ollie somehow managed to sleep like a starfish (despite being in a bag of his own), which resulted in me spending most of the night with his knee embedded in my lower spine – but our first ever camping trip, and my first night in a tent for eighteen years, was a relative success.

I should be ready to do it all again in, oh, another eighteen years or so….

Thanks for reading x

Standard